It has been an incredible summer for same-sex binational couples, with numerous cases, rulings and directives that may signal the beginning of the end of DOMA-based deportations.
Last week, Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that Homeland Security will be implementing changes to its immigration enforcement programs to focus its resources on high-priority immigration cases involving crimes and other public safety concerns, while de-emphasizing the targeting of immigrants who have no criminal convictions and can show family and community ties in America. Additionally, it was announced that there will be a case-by-case review of all current and future deportation cases as recommended by the Morton Memo.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security also confirmed to Metroweekly that
"The prosecutorial discretion memo provides for the use of discretion for people with strong community ties, with community contributions and with family relationships. We consider LGBT families to be families in this context."
This memo directs the Immigration Service to place a low priority on deportations of undocumented immigrants who have committed no crimes and can demonstrate a strong link to family and community. Same-sex binational couples will benefit from this ruling, as it considers our relationships to be "family". Under the discretion of an immigration judge, on a case-by-case basis, should the spouse or partner of an American citizen find themselves in deportation proceedings, the deportation will most likely be stopped.
That's exactly what happened last week in the case of Alex and Doug, who you read about and supported by signing the petition at Change.org and GetEQUAL.org last month. Initially the judge planned to review their case in 2013. Last week - the judge permanently closed the case! Alex can now stay in California with his husband Doug without the threat of separation or deportation.
At the same time, Sujey Pando & Violeta Pando who were also facing separation by deportation in Denver, Colorado last week, had their hearing halted. The immigration judge Mimi Tsankov instead scheduled a new hearing to consider a marriage-based application for relief from deportation for Sujey called a Application for Cancellation of Removal .
This is the same type of decision that closed the Henry Velandia case on the East Coast at the end of June. Henry can now stay in the US permanently with his husband Josh.
Lavi Soloway from Stop the Deportations Project has been the attorney for Alex & Doug, Henry & Josh as well as Sujey & Pando.
Another case making headlines is that of Anthony Makk and Bradford Wells. This case, however, is different from those above. Anthony has not overstayed a visa and is not in deportation proceedings. His visa runs out on August 25 and he is supposed to return to Australia. Immigration Equality is working on behalf of this couple. Bradford is ill with AIDS and Anthony is his husband and primary caregiver. We are hopeful that with last week's clarification from Secretary Napolitano, Anthony will be able to continue to stay in the US with Bradford.
Sign this petition to help out: http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-the-deportation-of-anthony-john-makk-and-stop-defending-doma
There is a lot going on and it is difficult to keep up with all the news and the changes. Out4immigration understands this and we will try to keep you updated on our Yahoo Groups list, Facebook page and Twitter.
Although these rulings have been favorable for couples facing deportations, we caution couples to seek expert legal advice and not to overstay visas or file spousal or fiancee visa/green card petitions without consultation. You can email us at email@example.com if you have questions or need a referral.